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Machshavot HaRav: Reflections from Rabbi Waxman


A Month of Our Own


Many of us are aware that this is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. We may have seen some spots on television featuring Americans from the Pacific or from Asia or perhaps we saw some footage of the parade held in New York City this past Sunday. But how many of us knew that May is also Jewish American Heritage Month? And did we know that it was inaugurated back in 2006, courtesy of efforts by Representative Deborah Wasserman Schultz and the late Senator Arlen Specter? Sadly, despite the fact there is a website dedicated to this observance——there has been little in the way of public acknowledgement of this observance. One would have thought that Jewish media here in this country would have hyped it; but not so. I only became aware of it after seeing a couple of spots on television, including one which focused on a Black Jewish woman and her family. (By the way that spot is an apt reminder that there is growing diversity in the American Jewish community. Some 10-15 % of American Jews can be considered Jews of Color and earlier this month 105 of them gathered together in Maryland to explore their diverse approaches to being Jewish.) But well we should celebrate our contributions to America as well as our diversity.

Perhaps because we believe we are so integrated into the fabric of America that we don’t think that we should be singled out. But why not? Irish Americans proudly celebrate their heritage in March, centered around St. Patrick’s Day. Why shouldn’t Jews and their participation in the fabric of America not be equally celebrated?

The first Jew to make it to these shores was Joachim Gans, a relative of the polymath David Gans of Prague. Gans made it to the colony in North Carolina in 1585 as a metallurgical expert but returned to Europe when the Roanoke Island colony failed the following year. Several other Jews followed in his footsteps before Asser Levy and his band of refugees from Recife ended up in Nieuw Amsterdam in September 1654 and created the first Jewish community in what became this nation. (On hand was Jacob Barsimson, who may have been sent by the Dutch Jewish community to see if Jews, now ousted from Brazil because the Portuguese had reclaimed all of it, could settle in Dutch North America.) Although Britain had banned Jews from its colonies, the small Jewish community in New York was allowed to continue to exist and in 1672 a second Jewish community was formed in Newport. By the time of the American Revolution there may have been some 2,000 Jews in the Colonies—and some of them sided with the British--, but aside from Haym Solomon, there were in fact others who aided the American effort, including Francis Salvador, who was the first Jew to die fighting in the American Revolution.

Jews have been part of the fabric of America for over 3 ½ centuries. Jewish contributions in this country in all fields from science to entertainment are monumental. (There are even a few Jewish sports heroes.) Let us use this month to explore some of these contributions, perhaps by visiting the government website or opening a volume on American Jewish history.


Shabbat shalom.


Services on Shabbat are in the sanctuary: Friday evening at 8 p.m. and Saturday morning at 10 a.m.






Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel


New Glasses While You Wait


Imagine getting new glasses, even ones with progressive lenses, within an hour. You may not have to imagine much longer, as Addon Optics, an Israeli company is about to enter the realm of lens production.


The company has developed a device about the size of a toaster oven that can create a multifocal lens in six minutes. An optician feeds two plastic sheets into the unit. One is a standard single-vision lens; the second is a very thin flexible lens that adds the multifocal capabilities and is affixed to the back of the single-vision lens with a small amount of glue. The lens materials that the company supplies are already coated with anti-reflective and anti-scratch material; no need to add them after the lenses are generated. After the lenses come out of the machine, they need to be cut to fit the specific frame size.


The company has adopted a “printer-and-ink” business model, that is to say the company makes its money by supplying the “ink”, which in this instance are the sheets for the lenses. The company is initially focusing on large chains, such as LensCrafters, which already produce thousands of multifocal glasses every day.


Addon is moving beyond the trial stage—it already has tested the end product on hundreds of customers—and has received US FDA approval. The plan calls for the devices to reach these shores later this year. Addon Optics will also make its product available in Israel, Germany and Australia.


The product has been in development for six years. As Amir Erlichman, the company’s CEO, explained: the alignment between the lenses must be perfect. “If you get it one micron to the left, you’ll get a headache.” It has taken this long to ensure this doesn’t happen.


The company’s name is a dual-lingual pun. In English it can be read as “add-on.” In Hebrew Addon means “mister” and so the full name translates as “Mr. Optics.”






Payrush LaParashah:

A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion


The portion of Behar (Leviticus 25:29-26:2) is read this Saturday,

 May 21st 


25: 35 If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: (36) do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman. (37) Do not lend him your money at advance interest, or give him your food at accrued interest. (38) I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.


25:37 Do not lend him your money at advance interest. This is a continuation of the previous verse [actually, two verses earlier, verse 35], “you shall hold him”. The passage speaks about Tsedakah [charity]. When you give charity to someone who is poor, do not, heaven forbid, do so stingingly and bitingly, offering words of moral chastisement and reproach, rather give it to him with kindness, as our Sages of Blessed memory said, “The one who appeases one who is poor is blessed with 11 blessings… (In the name of the Ad”mor [Adonanyu Moroaynu URabaynu—our lord, teacher and rabbi—a designation for a Hassidic leader] Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin, may his righteous memory be for a blessing, in Joseph B. Weinstein, Da’ath Chachamim: Vayikra, Bamidbar, Dvarim. Rabbi Moshe Polier [Poliyer/Pallier] was born in Fisk, near Kobrin [present day Belarus] in 1783. He studied with Rabbi Moshe of Shreshov and later with Rabbi Mordechai of Lechevich. After the latter's death, he remained a disciple of Rabbi Mordechai’s son, Rabbi Noah Malchevich. Finally, when Rabb Noah died in 1832, Rabbi Moshe became the rebbe in Kobrin [then in Russia; now Belarus]. He considered himself as a disciple of Rabbi Israel of Rizhin. He supported Aliyah to Israel and his disciples established a beit midrash [a study hall] in Tiberias. He served as the president of the Holy Land Fund on behalf of the Rizhin Kollel [the institute for advanced studies]. His teachings are preserved in Amarot Tehorot [Pure Sayings]. Additional material is to be found in the work of his grandson, Amarot Tehorot [Pure Utterances]. He died in 1858. This is a link to some stories and sayings of Rabbi Moshe: The last Kobriner rebbe died in 1949 in New York.)






Questions for Behar 5782 (Leviticus 25:29-26:2)


  1. According to the Torah how long would someone living in Rechavia, a fancy neighborhood in the new city portion of Jerusalem, have to redeem his house? How about his brother’s house in the Old City?
  2. Under what conditions could Levites sell their homes? Their fields?
  3. What might be one of the ethical implications of the phrase in verse 35, “let him live by your side?”
  4. Were Jews prohibited to lend on interest to resident aliens? Is there a work around that would permit commercial loans?
  5. What was the difference in status between an Israelite indentured servant and a non-Jewish slave?
  6. Who was eligible to redeem a family member who became an indentured servant of a resident alien? How was the redemption price calculated?
  7. What is the function of the jubilee year here? The Sabbatical year is still observed, is the jubilee year observed?
  8. Why does the portion of Behar conclude with two of the Ten Commandments?


Questions for the Haftorah (Jeremiah 32:2-27)


  1. Who was Hamael and where was Anathoth?
  2. What were the steps required in the sale? Was 17 shekels a good price?
  3. Who was Baruch the son of Neriah?
  4. Why did this transaction take place in the prison courtyard?
  5. What was odd about the transaction, which appears to be based on the Torah reading?
  6. Verse 17 and 18 contain phrases that appear elsewhere. Where?
  7. Verse 19 is part of what liturgy?
  8. Verse 21 seems familiar: where is a version of it found?
  9. Why do the Sephardim conclude the haftorah with verse 22?
  10. Why do the additional verses add to our knowledge of the setting for the haftorah?


Tue, May 24 2022 23 Iyyar 5782